Saying that “Twitter has become its ultimate editor,” New York Times columnist and editor Bari Weiss resigned yesterday with a scathing letter to the paper.
Weiss, one of the few centrist voices at The Times, said she faced bullying at the paper for her views, and that the free exchange of ideas on the opinion pages was now dead. The search for truth has been replaced by “orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”
In the letter addressed to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, Weiss bemoans how the Times has strayed from the ideals laid out by Adolph Ochs in 1896, that the paper should publish “all shades of opinion.”
In part, here is Weiss’ resignation letter:
It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.
I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers. Dean Baquet and others have admitted as much on various occasions. The priority in Opinion was to help redress that critical shortcoming.
But the lessons that ought to have followed the election — lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society — have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.
Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.
My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.
There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.
What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.
Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it.
What’s Going On?
Weiss was an unusual fit at the New York Times. It is a rare occurrence when a young writer at that paper still maintains a sense of providing its readers looks into both sides of political policies — not just that of the Millennials who gorge daily on Twitter and Snap Chat. Weiss honored the institution of Journalism. She is not a patsy and never hesitated to pen her thoughts on any applicable subject.
But she also allowed for considerable room for readers to hold an OPPOSITE opinion. After all, Journalism is supposed to be a free marketplace of ideas.
The marketplace of The Times is anything but open to multiple ideas on ANY subject.
“Bari Weiss’s letter was tame,” a New York Times insider said. She could have named names. She could have said, “There are dozens of other instances of bullying and harassment. Because there are.”
What took Weiss so long? Prominent writers at the Times never accepted her as a colleague. Instead, her colleagues on the opinion page sniped and leaked against her on Twitter from the first. Was it “tall poppy syndrome” – resentment of a young writer who, in an era when legacy media seem to be in perpetual crisis, landed a plum job at the Times? Or, as Weiss implies in her resignation letter, was it something nastier than mere jealousy – an ethical and legal failure that my source calls a ‘hostile workplace culture’?
The resignation letter she released on Tuesday alleges that Weiss, a liberal centrist who also happens to be a prominent Jewish supporter of Israel, has been called a “racist and Nazi” in her place of work and on Slack social media channels on which senior Times management are regular presences. She also says that the Times’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, and ‘other Times leaders have “stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage.” Her letter is restrained, but still, what sources call “the actual horror of her daily life at her job” again comes across.
“It’s astounding, but it’s also instructive,” one source says. “This is what happens when management doesn’t lift a finger to defend you.”
As Weiss herself says, her verifiable claims could amount to a costly compensation case for the Times: “unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge.” The Times’s management may also have breached Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964), by failing to protect Weiss from “discrimination based on certain specified characteristics” including “race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.”
Weiss’s online enemies are already assuming that she jumped before she was pushed. That alone would confirm the impression of ethical collapse at the Times. The radical left is running the paper, and no dissent is tolerated – not even from a US senator. But the truth is that she left in disgust.
‘This was obviously her decision. It was just, “What am I doing here anymore? The place has gone mad.”’
It won’t stop with Weiss. Colleagues on the opinion pages and in the newsroom have ratcheted up their disdain for moderates and conservatives. Who’s next?
It’s harder to get rid of a weekly columnist than an editor like Weiss. It’s a much bigger stink if a columnist leaves. But the fish stinks from the head, and the owners have no guts.
In her resignation letter, Weiss blathered what must have been devouring her insides for months. She made clear what the internal issues are at the formerly top newspaper not just in the U.S. but in the World. Today, it is far from that. Why is that?
The Times editors and publisher have stepped to the side in silent approval of a pronounced swing to the far left — not just far-left politics, but far-left social and moral mindsets that heretofore been subjects of columns like those from Weiss. Today, they are nothing more than ho-hum tweets from pimple-faced teens opining about their barrage of tweets that embarrassed, humiliated (or both) subjects of their attacks.
With Weiss gone, The Times has relented to be little more than an extension of Twitter. Maybe the paper should change its prominent building signage in Manhattan. Based on what Americans see today, an applicable sign on their building would say: “Twitter-East.”
The Adults Have Left the “Twitter-East” Building!